Cisco Networking: Graphical Device Configuration Interfaces

Cisco gives you some graphical configuration interface options depending on the class of network device you are using, which varies from Home to Enterprise products. This allows you to avoid the command line configuration process entirely.

Small Business devices

To start with, many of the Small Business devices, such as the Security Appliance (SA) 520 firewall, do not have a standard IOS command line but instead offer a web interface for configuration. This web interface greatly reduces the complexity of configuration for Small Business users, who often perform much of their own configuration.

The basic web interface of the SA 520, which places all configuration options in easy-to-navigate menus is shown.

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Home devices

Most Home users also perform their own configuration, or get a friend to do it for them. In the Home product line, streamlining configuration options in a few menus is critical for making the home experience easy and painless for users.

The illustration gives you a small example of this with a Cisco WRT54G2 wireless router. By making these devices easy to configure, they often have limited functionality compared with their larger cousins. However, most Home users have no need for most of the functionality that is removed from these Home devices.

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Enterprise devices

Almost all Enterprise devices have an Internetwork Operating System (IOS) command line for configuration, which for the most part varies little from platform to platform, other than functionality that exists only in a single platform. For example, the same basic commands are used to apply an IP address to a network interface, whether you work on an Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) firewall, a router, or a switch.

To make things simpler for some administrative users who do not want to get into the weeds learning how to do things, many of these devices now have web interfaces to make the configuration tasks easier.

The Cisco switches have a web interface that applies basic port setup and monitoring configuration; however, detailed configuration still requires that you get into the command line.

Many Cisco routers, especially the Branch Integrated Services routers have a Java-based graphical program, Security Device Manager (SDM).

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You might note in the figure that the top menu has three main options: Home, Configure, and Monitor:

  • The Home page gives you a basic snapshot of the device status.

  • The Configure page has a navigation pane down the left of the screen that allows you to configure the main components of the system, such as network interfaces, firewall policies, virtual private networks (VPNs), and routing, to name a few.

  • The Monitor page allows you to see more detailed information on the status of your device that you see on the Home page.

The Cisco ASA Security Device Manager (ASDM), as shown below, is similar to the SDM in appearance, down to the three main menu items on the main toolbar. The ASDM is also similar to the SDM in operation, with the configuration performed on the Configure page.

ASDM is a Java-based application that is stored on the device and launched from a web interface. Almost all functionality of the security device can be configured through the web interface, so a user rarely needs to venture into the depths of the command line.

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In the case of both the SDM and ASDM, all configuration is performed through the command line. When the interface loads, it reads the running-config from the device and then displays it graphically. As you make changes, the software parses new commands to change the running configuration and applies that configuration to the device effectively at the IOS command line.

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